Netflix’s period drama Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story makes no pretense of historical accuracy. In the opening credits, it is stated: “This is not a lesson in history.” It is fiction based on fact. As a Georgian monarchy expert who is working on a Queen Charlotte biography, I was interested to see how fact and fiction met in the show.
Queen Charlotte trailer on Netflix
Charlotte’s relationship to her husband, King George 3, is at the core of the series. Charlotte learns in the first episode that her older brother has agreed to her marriage.
The teenage princess rages against the decision in the show. Charlotte the real, on the other hand, was a calm, cheerful princess, despite a rough sea crossing.
The show may exaggerate Charlotte’s anxiety, but it is reasonable to assume the 17-year old princess was hesitant to leave her home in northern Germany , to which she would not return.
Thomas Gainsborough’s Portrait of Queen Charlotte (1781). Royal Collection
Charlotte is chosen by the mother of the king in the show to be a wife for her son. George III played a major role in choosing his wife. When he became king in 1760 at the age of 22, he informed his ministers immediately that he wanted to marry.
George gathered a list of candidates who were young, Protestants and educated. He then scrutinized their reports. One candidate was rejected because of her love for philosophy, and another was not selected because was suspected to be a madness in the family.
The king ultimately decided on Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who ticked all his boxes. George III didn’t care that the princess was from a minor family or that she was sheltered. He was only happy to find out that she was a young woman with a good temperament and had no interest in politics.
The first meeting
Netflix shows that the couple’s first meeting took place in the garden of St James’s Palace , one day after Charlotte’s arrival in England. The couple were married in an evening ceremony that members of the royal family and other leading courtiers attended.
Allan Ramsay’s Coronation Portrait of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz (c.1760-61). Royal Collection
Charlotte’s wedding dress was beautiful, but she did not choose it, as shown in the episode. The king had ordered it, along with a treasure trove of diamonds and pearls.
Charlotte’s chest was revealed to guests when the wedding dress of the young queen, which was heavily embellished with jewels, slipped down.
George and Charlotte had a good relationship from the start, even though it was not a romantic match. The king said to a courtier at a wedding ball that he was “too pleased” with his new wife.
Netflix’s show did not portray the couple as living separate lives. Charlotte was always with wherever the king went. The couple began living apart in the early 1800s due to a severe mental decline.
George III and Charlotte were by no means perfect, but they embodied the ideal of a relationship built on affection and shared values. Charlotte and George III had a successful marriage, but the illness of the king put a strain on both their relationship as well as Charlotte’s relationship with her children.
Charlotte, the matriarch
The show does justice to Queen Charlotte’s role as the matriarch of an enormous family. Charlotte’s 15 children, of which 13 lived to adulthood and were heirs , more than met the requirement. Charlotte tried to keep the family together despite many challenges as the king’s condition deteriorated from 1789.
The “flash-forward” scenes of the Netflix series show an older Queen Charlotte trying to maintain the monarchy without the King. The future of the monarchy was uncertain after the death of Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Prince-Regent.